A Chicago police officer has been acquitted of two felony charges leveled against her after she shot an unarmed man in a downtown commuter train station nearly three years ago.
On February 28, 2020, Melvina Bogard, 33, and her partner, Bernard Butler, allegedly spotted commuter Ariel Roman moving from car to car while the train they were riding was in motion, a violation of a city ordinance. When the two officers asked Roman to alight from the train at the next stop, he cooperated. He admitted to moving between cars, but explained to the officers that he did so because he suffered from anxiety and another passenger in one of the cars had been bothering him.
At some point during his encounter with the officers, Roman allegedly turned his back and made a movement toward his bag, prompting Bogard to grab him. Bogard and Butler then struggled to restrain Roman for nearly five minutes, as a cell phone video filmed by a witness demonstrated:
(Warning: explicit language and disturbing content)
During their encounter with Roman, Bogard and Butler reportedly instructed Roman to stop resisting at least 30 times. They also reportedly attempted to restrain Roman using mechanical holds, pepper spray, and their Tasers, all to no avail.
Roman eventually escaped their clutches and began running up the escalator, at which point, Bogard fired her service weapon and struck Roman in the abdomen. When he continued to flee, she fired once again, striking him in the back.
Though Roman survived the shooting, he underwent at least two surgeries as a result and still suffers from complications related to his injuries. One of the bullets remains lodged near his buttocks because it is located too close to the sciatic nerve for doctors to remove it.
After the incident, Bogard, who was hired by the department in 2017, was charged with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct. However, on Tuesday, Bogard was acquitted of the charges in a bench trial with Cook County Judge Joseph Claps.
Claps claimed in a 20-minute explanation of the verdict that the shooting was justified because Roman, though unarmed, posed a risk to the safety of the two officers when he grabbed one of their Tasers. He also asserted that Roman "has zero credibility" since he repeatedly ignored the officers' commands and was allegedly carrying drugs at the time of the incident.
Roman was initially charged with resisting arrest, but those charges were later dropped.
Bogard's attorney, Tim Grace, stated that, while he's grateful that his client was acquitted, he remains frustrated that "we've come to a point in our society where citizens can believe they do not have to follow the lawful orders of police officers and law enforcement."
Roman's attorneys are likewise frustrated, but their frustration stems from the fact that they believe justice was not served in this case.
"We don't think it was the right decision," attorney Andrew Stroth said. "You have a video that shows our client was shot running away in the back twice. Unarmed. Shot in the back."
Attorney Gregory Kulis took aim at Cook County state's attorney Kim Foxx, criticizing her for charging Bogard for the first shot, but not the second, which hit Roman in the back. He also intimated that the verdict could encourage other officers to use their weapons unnecessarily.
"According to the judge, they could not get him initially in handcuffs," Kulis continued. "So I guess it's okay to just go shoot someone. It's okay to try to kill a man who you're trained, with a fellow officer, to try to take under control. And I guess it's okay to shoot him in the stomach, and then shoot him again in the back."
Roman has filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and the city for excessive force. That lawsuit is still pending.
For his part, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown called the shooting "unnecessary" and recommended that Bogard and Butler both be fired. The Chicago Police Board will make the final determination about whether to fire the two officers.